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How to Get a Mortgage After Bankruptcy

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Getting a mortgage after bankruptcy is no easy feat. However, it is certainly possible. Ideally, you’ll wait several years and rebuild your credit so you can get a good deal. But you can still qualify even if you don’t do that.“If you’d like to buy a house after bankruptcy, don’t get discouraged,” said Jerry Robinson, owner of 1st Choice Mortgage Company in Meridian, Idaho. “Put the time and effort into shopping around and evaluating the different mortgage programs available to you.”

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what it takes to get a mortgage after bankruptcy.

How bankruptcy impacts your ability to get a mortgage

Bankruptcy can remain on your credit reports and affect your credit for up to 10 years. However, its impact will become less meaningful over time. Before we get into how bankruptcy may affect your ability to get a mortgage, let’s define the two major types of bankruptcy.

Chapter 7

Also known as liquidation bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed for individuals with limited income who do not have the ability to pay back at least some of their debts. This type of bankruptcy involves selling possessions, including possibly your home, to pay off unsecured debts like personal loans, credit card debt and medical bills. It’s important to note that back taxes, student loans, alimony and child support are not usually forgiven in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the worst thing you can do to your credit score. It stays on your credit report for up to 10 years. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a mortgage during that time. “Anyone can obtain a mortgage after Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as long as they have enough money to put down and have waited enough time since their bankruptcy was discharged,” said Robinson. We’ll go over just how long you’ll have to wait later in this article.

Chapter 13

Sometimes referred to as a “wage earner plan,” Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individuals with sufficient income to repay all or some of their debts. That means you’ll pay more, but you won’t suffer some of the negative impacts of Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

For instance, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy only stays on your credit report for up to seven years, not 10, and it’s less detrimental to your credit score. You’ll usually also be able to keep your house.

Once you’ve completed your repayment period of three to five years, your unsecured debts — credit card and personal loan balances — may be completely discharged. When this happens, you won’t have to make any further payments.

“Individuals in Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be able to get a mortgage if they receive permission from their bankruptcy trustee,” said Robinson. “However, if possible, they should be patient and wait until after bankruptcy so they can raise their credit score and enjoy better mortgage terms.”

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How long after bankruptcy can you get a mortgage?

You’ll usually need to wait until after your bankruptcy has been discharged to apply for a mortgage. The amount of time you have to wait is known as the waiting period. The length of your waiting period will depend on the type of bankruptcy you filed and the type of loan you’re seeking.

If you have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these waiting periods apply:

  • Conventional loan: Four years from discharge date
  • FHA loan: Two years from discharge date
  • VA loan: Two years from discharge date
  • USDA loan: Three years from discharge date

In the event you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, keep the following waiting periods in mind:

  • Conventional loan: Four years from discharge date
  • FHA loan: No waiting period
  • VA loan: No waiting period
  • USDA loan: No waiting period

If your bankruptcy involved a home foreclosure, you may have to wait longer to get a mortgage. Here’s a look at the post-foreclosure waiting periods.

  • Conventional loan: Two to four years if the property was discharged during bankruptcy, seven years in all other cases
  • FHA loan: Three years from the date the foreclosure was completed and transferred back to the bank
  • VA loan: Two years from the date the foreclosure was completed and transferred back to the bank
  • USDA loan: Three years from the date the foreclosure was completed and transferred back to the bank

Exceptions for extenuating circumstances

If your bankruptcy was the result of extenuating circumstances, waiting periods may be reduced. An illness or death of the primary breadwinner, job loss, natural disaster or divorce may qualify as extenuating circumstances, depending on the lender.

Some lenders may reduce your waiting period to one year if your bankruptcy involved an extenuating circumstance. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be required to provide your lender with documentation that proves your extenuating circumstance. Medical bills, a job layoff letter, tax returns and a divorce decree are all examples of documents that may serve as valuable documentation.

Home loan options after bankruptcy

There are a number of home loans you may be eligible for after bankruptcy. Let’s dive deeper into each of them.

Conventional mortgage

Conventional mortgages follow the guidelines set forth by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They typically require at least a 3% down payment. However, at least 20% down is recommended so you can avoid having to buy private mortgage insurance. While credit score requirements vary from lender to lender, 620 is usually the minimum.

You’ll be more likely to get approved for a conventional mortgage after bankruptcy if you’ve met the waiting period requirement and re-established your credit by paying your bills on time and keeping your credit card balances low.

Now let’s look at an example of how costs compare for a 30-year mortgage when you have good credit versus after you’ve completed a bankruptcy and your credit score has plunged.

Conventional mortgage cost comparison

Let’s say you had a credit score of 700 before you filed for bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy was caused by a natural disaster and qualifies as an extenuating circumstance. You decide to apply for a $200,000, 30-year mortgage two years after your Chapter 7 was discharged. You now have a credit score of 640.

Before bankruptcy

With a 700 credit score, you could have gotten a loan with an APR of 3.5%. Your monthly payment would have been $898. And the total interest you’d pay over the life of the 30-year term would have been $123,280.

After bankruptcy

Your 640 credit score and record of bankruptcy mean you’ll now pay more for your mortgage. You’ll only qualify for a loan with a higher, 4.5% APR. That means your monthly bill will be $1,013, $115 higher than in the before-bankruptcy scenario. The total interest you’ll pay for the loan term is $164,680.

In this situation, getting a mortgage after bankruptcy will cost you an additional $41,400 over the life of your loan because your lower credit score led to a higher interest rate.

FHA mortgage

FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration. If you have a credit score of 580 or higher, you may be eligible for this type of mortgage, and you may only need to pay a 3.5% down payment.

You can still qualify with a credit score as low as 500. However, if your credit score is between 500 and 579, you will be required to put at least 10% down.

Prior to applying for an FHA loan after bankruptcy, you’ll need to re-establish good credit and avoid taking on any any new debt. You may also have to outline what led to your bankruptcy in your loan application.

VA mortgage

VA mortgages are specifically designed for veterans, service members and qualified spouses. They are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and offered by private lenders like banks or mortgage companies.

If you are eligible for a VA loan, you may be able to receive one after waiting just one or two years after bankruptcy. Although you can take out a VA mortgage with 0% down, a large down payment can prove to lenders that you are serious about purchasing a home. It will also save you money on interest.

USDA mortgage

USDA mortgages are backed by the United States Department of Agriculture and focused on helping low-income residents in rural areas get mortgages at lower rates without any down payment requirements. To be eligible for a USDA mortgage, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 640. Although the waiting period for a USDA mortgage is three years, it can be reduced to 12 months if your bankruptcy was the result of extenuating circumstances.

How do I improve my finances after bankruptcy?

Improving your finances after bankruptcy takes a great deal of hard work and dedication. You have to consciously make the decision to control your spending and make wise financial decisions. Here are some tips on improving your finances post-bankruptcy so that you can increase your chances of getting approved for a mortgage.

Pay bills on time

It may seem obvious, but paying your bills on time is one of the most effective ways to rebuild your credit. If you tend to forget when your bills are due, setting up automated payments for regularly occurring bills may be a good idea.

Of course, this strategy will only work if you’re confident you’ll have the money in your bank account. Fortunately, many companies also allow you to sign up to receive notifications about your upcoming bills. You can use these notifications to ensure the funds to pay your upcoming bills are in your account.

You can also schedule a specific time each month to take care of all your bills. For instance, you may decide that the last Sunday evening of every month is your time to sit down, log in to all of your accounts, and make payments online. If you prefer to pay bills via paper check, you may use this time to write out checks and take them to the post office. Just make sure they will get to their destinations before their due dates.

Get a secured credit card

Getting a secured credit card is usually a great way you to raise your credit score because they’re relatively easy to get and the credit card company will report your payments to the credit bureaus. The trade-off is that you’ll usually have to pay a deposit that’s equivalent to your credit limit.

Robinson recommended getting two credit cards with credit limits of $300 or less. He said to charge $30 to each one every month and pay them in full. “This way, you can show you are being very responsible and may be able to drastically improve your credit score within 12 months,” he said.

Robinson explained that creating a budget and sticking to it, as well as putting money aside for a rainy day fund, can also help you keep your spending in check.

Don’t close credit card accounts

By closing credit card accounts, you’ll reduce the amount of credit at your disposal and increase your credit utilization rate — the amount of debt you have divided by all of your credit limits combined. An increased utilization rate may lower your credit score.

Therefore, if possible, keep your credit card accounts open. If you know you’ll be tempted to overspend, however, you may be better off closing them.

Closing thoughts

Taking out a mortgage is a large financial responsibility. If you are unsure of whether you can afford the mortgage payments, taxes, maintenance and other costs that come with homeownership, it may be in your best interest to wait. After spending some time rebuilding your credit and improving your financial situation, you may find that you are in a much better position to purchase a home.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Anna Baluch
Anna Baluch |

Anna Baluch is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Anna here

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Mortgage

Should You Save for Retirement or Pay Down Your Mortgage?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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On the list of financial priorities, which comes first — paying off your mortgage or saving for retirement? The answer isn’t simple. On one hand, owning a home with no mortgage attached to it provides long term security knowing you’ll have a place to live with no monthly payment except property taxes and insurance. However, you’ll also need income to live on if you plan to retire, and how much you save now will have a big impact on your quality of retirement life.

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of whether you should save for retirement or pay down your mortgage, or maybe a combination of both.

Pros of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

The faster you pay your mortgage off, the sooner you own the home outright. However, there are other benefits you’ll realize if you take extra measures to pay your loan balance off faster.

You could save thousands in long-term interest charges

Most homeowners take out a 30-year mortgage to keep their monthly payments as low as possible. The price for that affordable payment is a big bill for interest charged over the 360 payments you’ll make if you’re in your “forever” home.

For example, a 30-year fixed $200,000 loan at 4.375% comes with a lifetime interest charge of $159,485.39. That’s if you never pay a penny more than your fixed mortgage payment for that 30-year period. Using additional funds to pay down your mortgage faster can significantly reduce this.

Even one extra payment a year results in $27,216.79 in interest savings on the loan we mentioned above. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to throw your mortgage-free party four years and five months sooner.

You’ll build equity much faster

Thanks to a beautiful thing called amortization, lenders make sure the majority of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest rather than principal in the beginning of your loan term. Because of that, it’s difficult to make a real dent in your loan principal for many years. You can, however, counteract this by making additional payments on your mortgage and telling the lender to specifically put those payments toward your principal balance instead of interest.

Not only do you pay less interest over the long haul with this strategy, but you build the amount of equity you have in your home much faster. And to homeowners, equity is gold — you’re closer to owning your home outright, and equity can also be a resource if you need funds for a home improvement project or another big expense.

You can access that equity as your financial needs change by doing a cash-out refinance or by taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HEL or HELOC).

You won’t lose your home if values drop

When you contribute extra money into a retirement account, there is always the risk that you’ll lose some or all of the money you invested. When you contribute money to paying off your mortgage, even if the values drop, you still have the security of a place to live, and are increasing the equity in the home, no matter how much it’s ultimately worth.

Making extra payments ensures you’ll eventually have a debt-free asset that provides shelter to you and your family, regardless of what happens to the housing market in your neighborhood.

Cons of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

There are some cases where paying down your mortgage faster might actually hurt you financially. Before adding extra principal to your mortgage payments, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t doing damage to your financial outlook with an extra contribution toward your mortgage payoff.

You might end up paying more in taxes

The higher interest payments you make during the early years of your mortgage can act as a tax benefit, so paying the balance down faster could actually result in you owning more in federal taxes. If you are in a higher tax bracket in the early (first 10 years) of your mortgage repayment schedule, it may make sense to focus extra funds on retirement savings, and let your mortgage interest deduction work for you. Of course, everyone’s tax situation is different, so you’ll have to decide (with help from an accountant ideally) if it makes sense to itemize your taxes in order to claim mortgage interest payments as a deduction.

You won’t get to enjoy the return on your paydown dollars until you sell

The only real benchmark for figuring out the value of paying down your mortgage is to look at how much equity you’re gaining over time. However, the equity doesn’t become a tangible profit until you actually sell your home. And the costs of a sale can take a big bite out of your equity because sellers usually pay the real estate agent fees.

Home equity is harder to access

The only way to access the equity you’ve built up is to borrow against it, or sell your home. Borrowing against equity often requires proof of income, assets and credit to confirm you meet the approval requirements for each equity loan option. If you fall on hard financial times due to a job loss, or are unable to pay your bills and your credit scores drop substantially, you may not be able to access your equity.

Pros of saving for retirement vs. paying down your mortgage

Depending on your financial situation and savings habits, it may be better to add extra funds monthly to your retirement account than to pay down your mortgage. Here are a few reasons why.

You may earn a higher return on dollars invested in retirement funds

The growth rate for a stock portfolio has consistently returned more than housing price returns. The average return in the benchmark S&P stock fund is 6.595% for funds invested from the beginning of 1900 to present, while home values have increased just 0.1% per year after accounting for inflation during that same time period.

Assuming your portfolio at least earns 7%, if you consistently invest your money into a balanced investment portfolio, you can expect to double your money every 10 years. There aren’t many housing markets that can promise that kind of growth.

Retirement funds are generally easier to access than home equity

Retirement funds often give you a variety of options for each access, with no income or credit verification requirements, and only sufficient proof of enough funds in your account to pay it back over time. For example, a 401k loan through the company you work for will just require you to have enough vested to support the loan request, and sufficient funds left over to pay it off over a reasonable time.

Just be cautious about making a 401k withdrawal, which is treated totally differently than a loan. You aren’t expected to pay it back like you would a 401k loan, but you could get hit with taxes and penalties.

Cons of saving for retirement vs. paying down your mortgage

You’ll need to weather the ups and downs of the market

Most people who have invested money in the stock market or tracked the performance of their 401k over decades have stories about periods when the value of those investments dropped substantially. While the 7% return on investment is a reliable long term indicator how much your retirement fund might earn, the path to that return is hardly linear.

For example, if you were considering retirement between 1999 and 2002, you may have had to delay those plans when the S & P plummeted over 23% in value in 2002. If you look at each 10-year period since the 1930s, every decade has been characterized by periods of ups and downs.

Calculating the benefit of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

If you’re torn as to what to do with that extra cash or windfall, let’s look at an example of someone who has an extra $200 to put into either their nest egg or their mortgage each month for the next 30 years.

For this scenario, we’re going to assume their retirement account earns an average 7% rate of return and that their mortgage loan balance is $200,000.

Here’s how much they’d save:

Savings From Paying $200 per Month Down on Your Mortgage
Years PaidMortgage Interest SavingsExtra Equity in HomeTotal Interest Savings and Equity Built Up
10 years$6,040$30,039$36,079
20 years$28,529$76,529$105,058
22 years 6 months$50,745$200,000$250,745

One thing you may notice about the mortgage savings chart — it includes how much extra equity you’re building. Often only the mortgage interest savings is cited when people look at how much you save with extra payments, but that ignores the fact that you’re building equity in your home much faster as well. So not only do you save over $50,000 in interest with your extra contribution, you replenish $150,000 of equity that was used up by your mortgage balance.

As you can see, adding that extra $200 to their mortgage principal each month saved them about $200,000 in the long haul — but the real savings don’t stop there.

By adding an extra $200 to their mortgage payment each month, this borrower turned their 30-year loan into a 22-and-a-half year loan and became mortgage debt-free seven years faster.

That means, in addition to saving $50,000 in interest savings and gaining $200,000 of equity, they also no longer have a mortgage payment. That frees up $998.57 per month that they can now use as discretionary income. That’s an extra $89,871 they could potentially save over that 7.5 year period.

When you add that to the $250,745.41 they saved on mortgage interest and earned in home equity, they’re looking at a total savings of $340,616.

That gives the mortgage paydown a $54,000 net positive edge over saving that extra $200 for retirement, as you can see in the table below.

Savings From Contributing $200 per Month to a Retirement Fund
Years PaidRetirement Balance
10 years$34,404
20 years$102,081
30 years$235,212

The one caveat for this retirement calculation is we assumed the saver was starting at a $0 investment balance. If they already had a healthy balance in their nest egg, they might actually come out in better shape than paying down their mortgage.

There are clearly benefits to each option, and you should consider running your own calculations with your real numbers to get the best answer for yourself.

Paying down your mortgage and saving for retirement at the same time

There’s a fair case to be made for both paying down your mortgage and saving more for retirement, but why choose? If you’re somewhat on track with your retirement savings goals, and like the idea of having your mortgage paid off quicker, you could allocate a certain amount to each.

Pick a number you feel comfortable paying to your principal every month, and then to your 401k, and put it on autopilot for a year. Any time your income increases, or you get bonuses, divide up the amount between principal pay down and retirement additions.

Let’s look at what happens if you evenly divide up your $200 per month between investing your retirement and paying down your mortgage. We’ll use the same $200,000 loan at 4.375% referenced above, and look at the lifetime results.

Savings From Paying $100 Down on Your Mortgage Until Paid Off
Years PaidInterest SavingsExtra Home EquityTotal Interest Savings and Equity Built Up
10 years$3,020$15,020$18,040
20 years$14,265$38,265$52,350
25 years$30,534$200,000$230,534
Savings From Contributing $100 to a Retirement Fund for 30 Years
Years PaidRetirement Balance
10 years$17,202
20 years$51,401
30 years$117,607

Balancing the $100 investment in both strategies still yields a six-figure retirement balance after 30 decades, a debt-free house after 26 years, and shaves off $30,000 in mortgage interest expense. If you don’t like putting all your eggs into one financial basket, this may balance the risks and rewards of each option.

Final thoughts

Looking at the short term and the long term may provide you with the best framework for making a good decision about how to spend dollars on retirement versus extra mortgage payments. Be wary of any financial professional that tells you one path is absolutely better than another.

Having a stable source of affordable shelter is equally as important as having enough income to live when you retire, so a balanced approach to paying down your mortgage and savings for retirement may help you accomplish both goals.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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Life Events, Mortgage

What Is Mortgage Amortization?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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One of the biggest advantages of homeownership versus renting is each mortgage payment gradually pays off your mortgage and builds equity in your home. The difference between your home’s value and the balance of your loan is home equity, and your equity grows with each payment because of mortgage amortization.

Understanding mortgage amortization can help you set financial goals to pay off your home faster or evaluate whether you should refinance.

What is mortgage amortization?

Mortgage amortization is the process of paying off your loan balance in equal installments over a set period. The interest you pay is based on the balance of your loan (your principal). When you begin your payment schedule, you pay much more interest than principal.

As time goes on, you eventually pay more principal than interest — until your loan is paid off.

How mortgage amortization works

Understanding mortgage amortization starts with how monthly mortgage payments are applied each month to the principal and interest owed on your mortgage. There are two calculations that occur every month.

The first involves how much interest you’ll need to pay. This is based on the amount you borrowed when you took out your loan. It is adjusted each month as your balance drops from the payments you make.

The second calculation is how much principal you are paying. It is based on the interest rate you locked in and agreed to repay over a set period (the most popular being 30 years).

If you’re a math whiz, here’s how the formula looks before you start inputting numbers.

Fortunately, mortgage calculators do all the heavy mathematical lifting for you. The graphic below shows the difference between the first year and 15th year of principal and interest payments on a 30-year fixed loan of $200,000 at a rate of 4.375%.

For the first year, the amount of interest that is paid is more than double the principal, slowly dropping as the principal balance drops. However, by the 15th year, principal payments outpace interest, and you start building equity at a much more rapid pace.

How understanding mortgage amortization can help financially

An important aspect of mortgage amortization is that you can change the total amount of interest you pay — or how fast you pay down the balance — by making extra payments over the life of the loan or refinancing to a lower rate or term. You aren’t obligated to follow the 30-year schedule laid out in your amortization schedule.

Here are some financial objectives, using LendingTree mortgage calculators, that you can accomplish with mortgage amortization. (Note that MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

Lower rate can save thousands in interest

If mortgage rates have dropped since you purchased your home, you might consider refinancing. Some financial advisors may recommend refinancing only if you can save 1% on your rate. However, this may not be good advice if you plan on staying in your home for a long time. The example below shows the monthly savings from 5% to 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed loan, assuming you closed on your current loan in January 2019.

Assuming you took out the mortgage in January 2019 at 5%, refinancing to a rate of 4.5% only saves $69 a month. However, over 30 years, the total savings is $68,364 in interest. If you’re living in your forever home, that half-percent savings adds up significantly.

Extra payment can help build equity, pay off loan faster

The amount of interest you pay every month on a loan is a direct result of your loan balance. If you reduce your loan balance with even one extra lump-sum payment in a given month, you’ll reduce the long-term interest. The graphic below shows how much you’d save by paying an extra $50 a month on a $200,000 30-year fixed loan with an interest rate of 4.375%.

Amortization schedule tells when PMI will drop off

If you weren’t able to make a 20% down payment when you purchased your home, you may be paying mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects a lender against losses if you default, and private mortgage insurance (PMI) is the most common type.

PMI automatically drops off once your total loan divided by your property’s value (also known as your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV) reaches 78%. You can multiply the price you paid for your home by 0.78 to determine where your loan balance would need to be for PMI to be canceled.

Find the balance on your amortization schedule and you’ll know when your monthly payment will drop as a result of the PMI cancellation.

Pinpoint when adjustable-rate-mortgage payment will rise

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are a great tool to save money for a set period as long as you have a strategy to refinance or sell the home before the initial fixed period ends. However, sometimes life happens and you end up staying in a home longer than expected.

Knowing when and how much your payments could potentially increase, as well as how much extra interest you’ll be paying if the rate does increase, can help you weigh whether you really want to take a risk on an ARM loan.

The bottom line

Mortgage amortization may be a topic that you don’t talk about much before you get a mortgage, but it’s certainly worth exploring more once you become a homeowner.

The benefits of understanding how extra payments or a lower rate can save you money — both in the short term and over the life of your loan — will help you take advantage of opportunities to pay off your loan faster, save on interest charges and build equity in your home.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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